Friday, March 27, 2015

Maternity Leave Tips & Tricks from a Working Mom of Six

Let's get the assumptions out of the way so we don't make donkeys of ourselves...heehaw.

 * I am not pregnant (I knew you would ask!)

* This is what I do while I'm on maternity leave after having a new baby, it is not what everybody needs to do or wants to do, but it's helped me immensely.  I get totally turned off by posts that try and tell me how to be my kid's mom, so you go be your kid's mom and take what I say with a huge chunk of salt.

*  Being on maternity leave implies that you work outside the home, and will be returning to work outside the home, and therefore leaving your baby in someone else's care.  So this post might upset moms who are all about attachment parenting and exclusive breastfeeding and co-sleeping, but working moms can't do those things.

Alrighty...let's make like a party and get started...


Do as little to nothing as possible.

Just nursing and nursing and nursing.

When I'm at work and dreaming about maternity leave, I always have these grand plans to clean the house, rearrange bedrooms and cook elaborate dinners.  Then I have the baby and remember it's not the time for that.  Giving birth is a huge feat and our bodies need time to rest and recover.  There's no shame in that!!  My midwife always tells me to just sit and nurse the baby for three weeks, then I can think about doing something else.  I find it hard to do nothing, but binge watching Netflix helps me get over that :)


Let friends and family visit.  And let them help.

Future classmates.

OK, now that you're doing nothing and your house is probably a mess, you think "I don't want anyone to see this!"  But guess what?  You are holding the cutest little distraction in the world, and when friends and family come over to visit, they are staring at the baby, not the heaps of laundry.

And if for some reason, they do notice the laundry or dishes and offer to help...say YES!  It makes them feel good for helping you out, and it makes you feel good to receive that help.  When people say "Let me know what I can do..." I am getting better and better at giving them an answer.  "You can come hold the baby while I shower!"  "Could you pick up some diapers while you're at the store?"  "I could use help picking up my kids from school today." Whatever you need, people are usually very glad to help in a tangible and specific way.  I know I am.


Don't hold a sleeping baby.

Night night, sweet one.

Sure that baby is darn cute and you want to snuggle him all the time.  But when he is about to fall asleep, lay him down in his bassinet/crib.  First of all, it gives you a break to go to the bathroom, eat, shower (see next point), breathe in the fresh air, whatever you need.  Secondly, it teaches your baby that it's ok to sleep on their own.  I am sort of a crazy mom about this one, and when people come over to hold the baby, I only let them do it if the baby is awake.  Let sleeping babies lie.  Lay?  You get my point.  Babies can get used to anything, and starting them off as good sleepers on their own will help not only you but your daycare provider as well.


Shower every day.

Oh, you think YOU had a rough night?

Hygiene is wicked important.  If you breastfeed like I do, you know that waking up every morning with bed head, a sleep-deprived face, sweaty pajamas, leaky chesticles, and a healing "bottom" is not the best way to start the day.  Go shower, put on clothes, brush your hair and greet the day with an "I totally got this" attitude.  Fake it til ya make it.  And while you're at it, get a haircut!


Give baby a bottle.

Gimme all the milk.

Oh the lactation consultants will tell you that a breastfeeding baby shouldn't have anything but the breast...but when you know that baby will be getting bottles as soon as you head back to work, you have to change the rules.

So go ahead and breastfeed exclusively for about 3 weeks.  Then start pumping enough to give one bottle of breastmilk a day from that point on.  Baby gets used to eating from a bottle, and if you time that bottle right, mom can get an extra hour of sleep or two while dad bonds with the baby.  Winning!

When I was a stay-at-home mom, one of my babies ended up never taking a bottle because I didn't introduce it until 5 months.  I learned quickly with the last four that if you introduce it early enough, there's less chance of refusal.  Even if you do stay at home and breastfeed on demand, introducing a bottle can be great for the times when you want to go out when baby is 6 months old.

My friend who is a nurse and breastfeeding advocate once told me "A bottle a day keeps depression away" and I think she was onto something.  For some of us (like me) there is a feeling of being trapped when the baby won't take a bottle, like you can't ever go anywhere until baby is fully weaned.  Just knowing they can eat if something happens to me makes me feel better.


Keep the other kid's routines normal.

What's more exciting, getting picked up from school early or getting a new brother?

When I had my 6th baby, my oldest four were in school and my toddler was at a home daycare.  The day the baby was born, my husband picked everyone up early and they came to the hospital to meet their little brother.  It was a special and exciting day, and we loved it.

But the next day, it was back to and daycare until I got out of the hospital.  Then once I was home, I still sent the toddler to daycare for a couple more days (due to lots of appointments the baby needed for jaundice) and I think it really helped.  The toddler knew life was different now, but it didn't affect him too much.  Once we settled back home and Phil went back to work, I kept the toddler home with me for the rest of my maternity leave so that we could enjoy our time together before he had to go back to daycare.  He bonded with his baby brother, and only having two at home (while the older four were in school) felt super easy!


Go on a date.

Feeding the baby before feeding the momma.

Try and go on a date with that Baby Daddy of yours at least once before work starts up again.  It makes you feel like you're *almost* ready to be back amongst adults in the workplace, and newborn babies are super easy to take to restaurants, they just eat and sleep.  Leave the older kids at home with a babysitter and enjoy your marriage and babymoon.

What else am I missing?  Linking up with Kelly because it's Friday and that's how I roll.  Happy Weekend everybody!

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Does Your Mom Cut Your Hair?

Yes, yes, she does.  Sorry buddy, but 5 boys x $10 a pop = too much money to spend on haircuts.  Clippers and some faux confidence to the rescue.




Goodbye baby, hello toddler!

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

The KonMari Method: Why It's Awesome and Why It Could Be Even Better

So if you're like me from last week, you don't know what the KonMari Method is.  You've never heard of this bestselling book that seriously is changing people's lives.

Isn't the author, Marie Kondo so beautiful?  Doesn't her living room look so peaceful and uncluttered behind her?  The tidying method she explains in her book is called the KonMari method, which is a play on her own name.  Get it?

We are beginning the process of seriously trying to sell our house.  We have a realtor coming over at the end of the month, and we have been saying that we need to get the house ready but have lacked the major motivation needed to do any work.  Six kids and sick kids can do that to the best laid plans, looking at you, Cari.  So there I was, in the middle of Lent, feeling overwhelmed at the thought of getting my house ready to sell and keeping it ready to show.  

Rachel and me in 2011.  I have since started wearing makeup...geesh.

And then beautiful Rachel, who seems so perfect in a non-annoying way (which is tough to pull off!), who is raising six kids of her own, organizing laundry systems, and keeping a gorgeous house to boot decided to review The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up

The book came, and I devoured it in two days.  I started cleaning this weekend.  It's been amazing.  We have given away 19 huge bags of clothes, towels, sheets, shoes and coats and two crates of books.  And we're just starting!  

The secrets to the KonMari Method are:

Treat this de-cluttering and purging stage as a big time event.  She promises that if you do it right, you will never have to do it again because you will live in a constantly uncluttered home with a place for everything and everything in its place.

Clean/de-clutter/organize by category.  In the past I would clean a room or a specific area of the house (my bedroom, the bathroom, the hallway closet) and not categories (books, shoes, papers).  Cleaning by category means collecting everything you have in one category (let's say tops), putting them all in a big pile, and then choosing what to discard.  This is easy to do once you can see all your tops in one place.
When choosing what to discard, you must touch each object and decide if it "sparks joy".  If it doesn't, let it go.

Her method says that if you discard all items that don't "spark joy", you will be left with exactly the amount of stuff you need, and you will have exactly the amount of space for everything.  She does not promote buying any organizational tools or getting extra storage space.  I love that the book is not trying to sell anything but motivation.

When putting away clothes, she folds everything so it "stands up" and you can see it, instead of in piles.  Her socks are rolled and stood on their side, like sushi.  Her closet is hung by size/material/color.


These were the tips I hardwired into my brain so that I could start my decluttering marathon while being so inspired.  However, there were a couple of things in the book that left me feeling a little unsettled, and not just the emptying out of her purse each night - who has time for that?  You see, Marie Kondo has had a lifelong obsession with "stuff".  She has spent her whole life researching the art of tidying, discarding, storing things, so much that these inanimate objects have become more than just things to her.  She often gives her "stuff" human feelings and concerns herself with how they are treated.  I think her method could use a little tweaking in order to sit better with my Christian values, such as:

When discarding an item, she suggests you thank the item, let's say pants, before passing them on.  While I understand that the sentiment is to completely let go of the pants, to free yourself of them, I think you should thank God instead.  So rather than saying "Thank you pants for keeping me warm" you could say "Thank you God for providing me with warm clothing", or "Thank you for my mom who gave these to me" or "Thank you for the job that allowed me to buy these."  But God is the source of all our gratitude.

When folding your socks, she makes a big deal about how rolling them into balls in a terrible way to store them because then they can't rest and relax.  She goes on to explain that balling socks pulls on the fibers and loosens the elasticity and therefor ruins the socks.  I think you should treat all the items you are keeping as best you can, but not worry about their state of relaxation.  In my research, I believe this is a facet of the Japanese culture, so I am not trying to be an ignorant American, but for me, it was a little much.

She writes about how when you get rid of excess items, you feel lighter, the air is cleaner and you begin to enjoy your home again.  She tells of people that lost weight or got their dream job after tidying up their house, all because they are living in a peaceful environment.  I agree that de-cluttering can be life-changing, but it's also because of what it does to your soul.  The added benefits are that you are learning not to be materialistic, helping out others through your donations, and receiving the grace to focus on other areas of your life.  Like a good confession, a weight is lifted and life feels fresh and new once again.  There's a reason why so many religious brothers and sisters take vows of poverty - it is freeing!

She greets her house and any house she enters as if it's a temple.  She literally kneels down when she enters a client's home and talks to the house.  If only we took the time to talk to Jesus as much!  I'll keep my adoring to Him and Him alone, thank you very much.

For me, God and clutter are very intertwined.  You see, for the first ten years of my marriage, we always needed things - furnishings for our home, clothes for the kids, beds and toys and get it.  We weren't in a position to say "no" to any form of hand-me-down, because we were poor and in need.  So we said "yes" to everything even if it was ugly or ragged or not timely.  We accumulated a lot of stuff, and thanked God for providing it.  Just in the past few years, we have started getting rid of it.  We realized that we can now be picky about what we keep, and we can put a limit on the amount of toys/sports equipment/shoes that the kids have because they actually don't need that much!  We can afford to buy a pair of sneakers for Xander and don't need to save him the three ratty pairs that his older brothers have worn out.  We are blessed, and as God has proven over and over again, He will provide the things we need when we need them and we shouldn't worry about being greedy hoarders for the "just in case" times.  Trusting in God's providence (and working hard on our end) has been so freeing in letting us de-clutter our house.

So that's it.  Buy the book.  Change your home and your life, but if you're a Christian, don't forget who is the only true source of happiness and worthy of our praise.